At Ushidoki Wagyu Kaiseki along Tras Street, I sank deep into my chair as I reluctantly finished the tomosankaku sashimi—tomosankaku is the part of beef at the intersection of flank and shank—wrapped around uni, lightly torched, eaten with kombu braised in shoyu. I was so contented that I thought paradoxically, “The world should end now. I shall never be as happy as I am now.”
I first heard of Ushidoki Wagyu Kaiseki from a doctor friend who recommended it highly. The restaurant serves wagyu beef from Miyazaki Prefecture, which is named after the farmer, Mr. Muneharu Ozaki.
Beef tongue & canola sprout in beef stock
“Ozaki Beef” is perfected after 30 years of effort. Instead of grading beef by marbling, color, and fat, Ozaki focuses on flavors: tasty without being jerlat (excessive). Unlike most wagyu cows that are served at 28 months, Ozaki harvests them at 32-34 months, believing that the flavors continue to deepen; he calls this “live aging.”
Beef shoulder sashimi & oyster with kombu
The restaurant is helmed by second-generation Osaka Chef Nobuaki Hirohashi, with 30 years of experience, formerly from the defunct Kumo Japanese Kaiseki. He has two restaurants in Osaka, where his chef-father is managing. Lunch at $100, and dinner $130 (6 courses), $200 (10 courses) or $300 (10 courses, premium ingredients). Reservation is required.
Tomosankaku sashimi wrapped around uni, lightly torched, with kombu braised in shoyu
The kaiseki meal is a nose-to-tail dining concept. Fergus Henderson in UK has popularized the concept in the West in the late 90s, but Japanese have practiced it for centuries. In Japanese culinary world, nothing is wasted. Even bones are kept for stock.
Although the whole 10 courses consist of only about 230g-240g of beef, it brings great satisfaction of a round belly. There is also a poetic sense of cycle and completion: you start with beef tongue, slow-cooked for a day, in hot beef stock—so wonderfully robust and rich—and end with a refreshing cold somen with oxtail jelly in dashi, and hints of yuzu. From the tip of the cow to the tail; from a hot, strong soup to a cold, gentle broth, the kaiseki comes a full circle.
There are many highlights to the meal: the beef tongue in beef stock is one. The 3 kinds of sashimi is another, all done in different styles: ribeye kaburi tartare (above), topped with ikura, laced with yuzu pepper, and smoked with cherry wood; beef shoulder with oysters; and of course, our favorite, the tomosankaku sashimi, of which the aroma lingers in the mouth, refusing to let you forget it.
The mother of all highlights that you need a highlighter: the Rosanjin styled sukiyaki (above). Chef Nobu got the recipe from Ozaki, and he even uses the same soy sauce, found only in Miyazaki. The same sukiyaki broth has been bubbling since the restaurant opened four months ago! Everyday, Nobu just tops up what has evaporated, so you can imagine how intense the broth is. Five years later, it will still be the same broth!
The thinly sliced sirloin is briefly poached in sukiyaki broth, and served in a bowl with shaved truffle, an egg, and cabbage. The cabbage absorbs all the wholesomeness of the broth—wonderfully sweet. Near the end, Nobu gives a toasted rice ball to soak up the remaining sauce.
But for two courses, the roast beef in herb garden and the char-grilled tenderloin and sirloin (above), the beef comes across as grainy and rough and even tough.
Somen, oxtail jelly, dashi, yuzu
That said, there are so many things I love about Ushidoki. Although it’s a wagyu kaiseki, we have eaten more than 30 kinds of vegetables by the end of the meal; it’s healthy. The decor is pure class, exuding a sense of peace. I felt happier just by being in the room. Because it’s a cozy space, you’re sure to be served by Nobu himself; this is the true Japanese artisanal spirit. (He speaks English by the way, having lived in Singapore for 7 years.) The creativity of the meal allows us to eat items from sukiyaki to sushi. $200 for a meal isn’t cheap, but it is good value.
Something to do with cow: homemade milk ice cream, burrata cheese, gula melaka
I’ve predicted previously that either Meta Restaurant or Ashino @ CHIJMES will be the Restaurant of the Year. I shall eat my words. Clearly, Ushidoki has entered the good fight. 2016 is turning out to be a great year. We are only in February and I’ve already eaten such amazing food.
Ushidoki Wagyu Kaiseki Singapore
57 Tras Street, Singapore 078996
T: +65 6221 6379
M-F 12pm-2.30pm, M-Sat 6pm-10.30pm
Reservation is required
Service: NA (tasting)
Overall Rating: 4.25/5
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.
This is a hosted meal.